Golden Rules For Property Development

Property Development

Many of us Landlords were naively inspired to enter the property game because of hugely popular shows like Sarah Beeny’s Property Ladder, which often made property investment (whether it be property flipping or long-term BTL) look easier than making a sandwich, so it shouldn’t surprise anyone that the nation went property crazy during the peak.

There’s no shame in it, I’m guilty for taking the bait!

But are shows like Proper Ladder a true reflection of what it’s like in the real world today? I think we all know the answer to that.

We aren’t in the midst of a property boom today (in 2020), which means profit margins are becoming slimmer and it’s more challenging to turn a profit, because now it’s actually more about the decisions we make, as opposed to the economy doing a lot of the legwork for us.

Is there still money to be made? Absolutely, boatloads! To help you along your journey…

Golden Rules of Property Development

1: Calculate your costs before starting any project

Before buying a development project, make sure you do a thorough analysis of your finances. Here are some of the figures you should be looking to retrieve:

  • how much is the property currently worth
  • how much are similar properties in the same area selling for
  • how much will your property be worth once it’s been developed
  • how much money will you need to develop the project (get quotes from tradesman)

Those vital figures will tell you whether a project is worth pursuing or not.

2: Know what you’re buying

It might be worth employing a builder to check out the property before making an offer. Properties that are in need of restoration often have a lot of problems that can’t be seen with the naked eye. Relying on an estate agent and vendor to declare all the hidden beauties is a tactic I wouldn’t recommend for the sane. If you buy yourself a property with a lot of hidden surprises your budget and profit will go out of the subsided window. Literally.

3: Supply and demand

There’s no point transforming a 3 bedroom house into an 8 bedroom house if there is no demand for 8 bedroom properties in the area. You need to know what the local market is looking for; the best way to do that is by talking to local estate agents. By getting an idea of what types of properties are most in demand, you can base your development around the spec. Supply what is in demand.

4: What adds value to the property?

If you’ve purchased a property on a road that has limited parking space, it might be worth building a garage, space permitting, as opposed to that extra dining room. Of course, you can find out from your estate agent what will add that extra bit of value.

5: Planning permission

Buying a property with great visions of expansion can quickly become a nightmare if you can’t get permission from the local planning authority. Make sure you can get planning permission, or better yet buy a property that already has planning permission.

6: Produce a realistic budget and stick to it

It’s imperative that you stick to a budget; otherwise you could be watching your profits shrink very quickly. You need to be realistic from the start, and then maintain a strict hold of your budget. The amount of people I see losing grip of their budget is unbelievable; it’s crazy how easily developers part with money. Granted, higher risk equals higher gain, but there is never any gain when throwing money down the drain.

7: Don’t cater for your own taste

You want your property to appeal to as many people as possible to make sure your property sells quickly. The longer you leave your market on the property for, the more it will cost you. Time is money. By designing a property to your own taste you’ll be ultimately limiting your market. Try to keep things neutral and easy on the eyes. Even easily correctable features like ill-coloured paint can scare buyers away. What can I say, man? People scare easily.

8: Forget the luxury accessories; focus on the bread and butter

Adding gadgets like CCTV and luxury fish tanks built into the wall won’t add value to your property, and they certainly won’t be the definitive features that will make or break a deal. Instead of putting money into state of the art technology, put the money back into your pocket or spend it on more fruitful features E.g solid kitchen or bathroom units.

9: Know the difference between success and failure

A lot of developers only make a profit from development because the property market has been kind to them. By the time the development is over, prices may have increased by 10%. In that case, they would have made just as much profit (if not more) if they didn’t shed blood and spend a fortune on the development.

If someone purchased a property for 100k, spent 20k developing it, and sold it for 140k with a 10% rise in property prices; their efforts made them 10k. Obviously 10k is a lot of money, but the profit margin isn’t substantial for a project that may have lasted 6 months. In a steady market the developer would have struggled.

Measure success on actual development work as opposed to the condition of the market. Don’t forecast your profit on future house prices; the property market can be fickle and switch in any which way.

10. Work with people you can trust

The odds are you will employ a builder and various other tradesmen to help renovate your property. Picking the right tradesmen is vital; they alone can determine the success of your project. If you don’t already have a reliable team of workers, ask friends and family for recommended labourers. If your resources run dry and you’re relying on a random workforce, then use what is right in front of you, THE INTERNET, to check references. Look online for reviews of reliable tradesmen. Odds are that if someone has done a superb or a terrible job, it’s been written about on a forum somewhere.

11. Project Management

A lot of people employ professional project managers to make sure everything is kept inline, including the builders. Their job is to make sure the project runs smoothly, which entails time and cost efficiency. Project Managers can be an expensive asset, so a lot of enthusiasts take on the roll themselves. It can be a fun and highly rewarding experience if you can carry the swagger that is required. If you’re not the forward pro-active type, then you may need to completely transform into new a suit just to get this project done. If people are slacking and consequently costing you, you need to put your foot down and rectify the issue. Basically, plan the project, be realistic, stick to your timeline and be aggressive when you need to be.

One thing you need to remember is that it’s your money on the line and time is everything, so you need to make sure things are completed in the appropriate time. Don’t take a one day loss lightly, because those days can slowly build up into weeks.

4 Join the Conversation...

Guest Avatar
Toby Strutt 2nd April, 2008 @ 14:29

hi there! I'm not sure if you might be able to help me with this?

ITV1’s Tonight with Trevor McDonald is making a programme about Property Development, and we’re looking to hear from you.

Have you developed with the intention of adding value to your property? This could be from scratch after buying a derelict house, or maybe you’ve added an extension or some other home improvement. Has the recent slow down in the market meant you’ve lost out financially – or even gone bankrupt? Perhaps you’re trying to sell now, but know that you’re likely to make a loss? If you’re interested in taking part in the programme, then please contact me on 084488 16453 / 07786 547227 or [email protected]

Guest Avatar
Azim M Merchant 23rd July, 2010 @ 10:27


We are the owners of a family owned property which currently has a ground plus two, sturcture standing.
We would like to redevelop the same, we would like you to suggest/advice us on what is the total build up and sellable area available post redevelopment of the property...the property is situated in Bandra (W) measures 338 SQYRDS, with current build up area is close to 3100 SQFT....currently falls under CRZ ii...

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Sarah Mac 30th November, 2011 @ 12:15

VAT is a killer and having found great one man band craftsmen that are not VAT registered has saved me 20% on labour time and time again. I have also been really happy to use local guys that are looking to establish themselves. Building up a relationship of loyalty with suppliers has been priceless to me.

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royal 12th December, 2013 @ 08:52

thank you for sharing the property devleopment. keep blogging

















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